Monday, March 14, 2011

B-4, Move the Herd

Recently I took a tour of two modern dairies and aside from the actual milking(they must be milked three times per day) I was reminded of Southwest Airlines. Oooops, excuse me, how can this be and please explain yourself is what my faithful readers may be asking at this time. Well, here is the deal. In a dairy operation the cows go from point to point in the dairy to get fed, to poop/pee, to rest, and then to be milked. After a short while they become creatures of habit and just go from point to point without any real supervision. They get the drill and follow it very closely. But think about it, they get hungry so they naturally want to satisfy that hunger, then they get to a point where they must remove this waste so they do that, then they rest a while and then they are milked. All the time they go from area to area in the dairy to accomplish this, plus when they calf they must go to the birthing born to have their calf. So it all becomes a habit predicated on a need and the end results is the production of good wholesome milk. So, as I made my trip to Tulsa this week on Southwest I noticed the similarity of traveling on this particular airline because I have always said that Southwest was the airline that taught us how to react as dairy cattle do or like herds do. We are given certain instructions how to board their aircraft, which is very different from the other airlines, and since their beginning over 30 years ago they have changed the herding process onto their aircraft four different times, but never like the older airlines such as American or Delta. In the beginning boarding Southwest was almost a physical challenge that almost required you to be a young, strong well trained athletes. For the most part the airplane arrived at the gate and the passengers(let’s now call it a herd) for that flight would jump to their feet and start elbowing their way to the front, so obviously it was a first come first served seating arrangement. Usually who ever had the fastest feet and largest elbows got the best seat. There was no pre flight boarding, no assigned seats, not first class, just hell bent for leather elbow your way on. Then after the herd of loyal passengers had this down pat they changed to some colored plastic boarding cards that only allowed you to get on the plane based on your color, and you still had to fight for a spot, but it did give the herd the feeling of having some kind of seat when the gates were opened. One time I got on a flight in Houston headed for Dallas and after entering the run way they stopped the airplane and returned to the gate and made 3 people get off. Later, after getting in the air the captain came on and explained that, “sorry about that but we had too many people on the aircraft so we had to unload them, or did he say “herd” them? Now as the success of Southwest continued to grow they started another boarding procedure in which they had three signs up above the gate door entrance and your code for determination to load was a color, so when your color came up you stood in that herd and that is how you loaded. Seems as though it also had a color associated with when you loaded. Then about two years ago they came up with the present loading system in which you load by three groups, A, B, and C. They also installed tall poles that had your number on it so if you were assigned B-4 that means you would be in the B group in the B 1-30 loading group. Now to even add more efficiency to the herding system you can check in on line 24 hours in advance. I am now of the sophistication that I can do this all by myself and have found that being in the low numbers and as close to A-1 as possible I am more prone to get a better seat. Remember even though you have these numbers assigned does not mean you get say seat 4, or seat 10. As a loyal member of the herd you still have to move swiftly for your seat, take it and buckle up quickly so no one else will get it. One thing I really enjoy is that I see prominent and important people having to join the herd and fight for their seats just like us common folks, so that is really refreshing. Recently I got B-4(my goal is to some day get A-1) and found that I had many options of where to sit. I also like to giggle to myself about the new travelers who do not know the rules of the “herd” and they are looking down at their boarding passes trying to identify their number with the seats. Sorry folks it doesn’t work that way, it just gets you on the plane then you have to find your seat, or fight for your seat, whichever comes first or is required. My bottom line here is that I love Southwest and what they have done for efficient flying and excellent customer service, but I also appreciate their 20 minute turn arounds and fast exits off of the plane. This member of the “herd” understands why all of this is done and then when I have to travel on American or Delta I really appreciate what Southwest has done for the airline traveler of the day, whether it be weekly or once a year. “Git ‘em up, hitch em up, rawhide, this is Southwest Airlines and we are proud of it,” may be their next theme song. It did well for Clint!!

For today......EA, SH....:)!!



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